12 May, 2010
Crist Should Veto Red Light Camera Bill
I’ve got a problem with red light cameras. They’re yet another instance of giving us a false sense of security while not solving the problem. The pending red light camera bill is purely a money grab by municipalities that have been unable to balance their budgets and are afraid to raise taxes openly. It’s not about safety and doesn’t do anything to decrease red light running. In fact, if it follows the pattern of other states that have instituted the heavy use of red light cameras, it may end up making intersections more dangerous.
If we’re trying to reduce red light running, let’s do it in a comprehensive manner, based on actual research. Which, first, means making the yellow lights a second longer. Georgia did it and found that red light running was reduced by 80%. Even months after the increased yellow time took effect (and in contradiction of the cameras’ proponents who predicted that the reduction would be short lived, as drivers became accustomed to the longer yellow lights) there were 50-60% fewer citations.
The public’s interest is served by making intersections safer, not by maximizing revenue. So why is there a reluctance to increase the length of yellow lights in addition to installing red light cameras? Or, better yet, as a trial to see if cameras are even needed? Perhaps because increasing the length of the yellow lights by just one second will make the red light cameras a losing proposition. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Half a dozen Georgia towns just cancelled their camera contracts after a state law mandating the addition of an extra second to the yellow made them unprofitable.”
Secondly, if we’re going to have cameras, the public should own and operate them, not profit-driven contractors. Issuing tickets for running red lights (or providing the justification for issuing these tickets) should not be outsourced to private companies. They are inherently in it to make money, not as a public service. Think we should trust these companies not to tamper with the amber lights to ensure more revenue? Check out these six cities that were caught using shortened yellow lights in conjunction with their red light cameras.
So, Charlie, send this one back, too. Our representatives can offer something that actually improves public safety, rather than just lining the pockets of private contractors and increasing cities’ revenues through manufactured infractions.